Simple, Easy And Free ”Brain Training” For Your Dog

  • 18/04/2020

Almost every dog owner has household discarded cardboard. Instead of all this cardboard heading straight to the recycling bin, why not use it to make homemade "brain train" games for your dog. Cereal boxes, toilet roll tubes, delivery boxes, and egg cartons are all awesome, thrifty alternatives to expensive toys found in pet stores. All you need is scissors, cellotape, a little time and a bit of imagination.

As a behaviourist, I know how important it is that your dog gets enough mental and physical stimulation every day. Getting your dog to use his brain can tire them out just as much as physical activity can. A dog who enjoys regular mental stimulation will be much calmer and content overall. Imagine if we had nothing to occupy our brains all day. Boredom and frustration can set in and they lead to behavioural issues.

I use empty boxes and toilet roll tubes all the time to make a fun and engaging area for my dog. It does not take long to lay a blanket down and set up a number of challenges that my greyhound has to work his way through to get to the much-desired treat. As most boxes vary in size and structure, the puzzles look and feel different to my dog, Swift, even though he still has to “hunt the treat”. This means he needs to engage his brain fully with each session.

Most of my puzzles work on a basic hide-and-seek basis. I use the cardboard in different ways to hide a treat which my dog then needs to use his nose, paws, teeth, and brain to seek out before his hard work is rewarded with a tasty morsel.

Here are some of my favourite techniques:

  • Stand a toilet roll tube upright and drop a treat in the middle.
  • Lie a toilet roll tube on its side and hide the treat in the middle.
  • Cut a large hole in the side of a cardboard box and place the treats inside.
  • Cut doors into a cardboard box so that your dog needs to push with his nose to open.
  • Make peepholes in a box so that your dog can see the treat but needs to move or open the box to reach it.
  • Hide treats in the dips of egg cartons and cover them so that your dog has to work to find a treat.

During these sessions, help your dog work it out if they are struggling. Encourage them if they are close, by saying “Yes” and “Good Boy/Girl”. Give them a little guidance on what to do and always praise them when they get it right. The treat is a reward, but your praise is the cherry on top.

Author bio

Emma Bowdrey is an ISCP-trained Dog Trainer based in Prague, where she lives with her adopted greyhound, Swift. Emma has worked with dogs since gaining her qualification in Canine Behaviour & Psychology and now runs her own business. Emma uses positive reinforcement methods to make each hound a happy one.


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